A not-so-wise Dapto criminal involved in thieving half-a-million dollars worth of rare opals was busted discussing the hidden location of the stones in recorded jail phone calls.
It took Clayton David Love two years to confess to his role in the horrific 2021 break-in, after he pleaded guilty to a string of offences in Wollongong Local Court this week.
The 43-year-old came undone after he was caught discussing the stolen stones with his associates, as well as his then-girlfriend and mother.
Documents tendered to the court stated Love and three other men drove to an Albion Park Rail home in the early hours of February 10, 2021 using accomplice Lachlan Alcock's Ford XR6.
Armed with weapons, the quartet forced their way into the home, held a male and female occupants up at gunpoint and stole more than 1000 opals in a swift two-minute operation. Their arrival and departure was caught on CCTV footage.
The owner said the stones included opal roughs, opal rubs, fossils and polished stones, the most valuable of which were worth between $5,000 and $10,000 - with the total collection worth about $500,000.
That night, Love drove to his then-partner's home in Dapto and showed her the stolen rocks.
Detectives began intercepting Love's telephone calls and recorded him discussing the stolen stones with associates, arranging to sell or swap them for drugs.
Intercepted calls reveal Love had a falling out with Alcock at the start of April, with the pair overheard arguing on the division of the stolen opals.
"You said we only had 80, where the f--- is the big one?" Alcock said to Love on April 1, 2021.
"Don't try f--- me cause it won't end well," Love replied.
The next day Love contacted Australia Post and arranged to have a package of opals sent to Alcock, re-directed to his own Dapto address.
Love spoke to his girlfriend and said "you know those things I said that I lost ... I am getting them back so they can suck my d---".
Alcock wrote in a text message that day, "you think for one second you don't owe us? There is more than 80 stones, you and I both know you planned on ripping the wrong c--- c--ksucker, see ya soon."
Love was arrested for unrelated matters the following month, and in recorded calls from jail, he spoke with his girlfriend and mother on several occasions between May 5 and July 20.
On May 20, 2021, police searched his mother's Horsley and girlfriend's Dapto abodes, as well as Love's Dapto address.
Officers overturned a couch in his girlfriend's lounge room and inside a zipped-up compartment in the fabric, found a clear resealable bag with several opals in it.
According to court documents, police found a face sock, instructions on how to cook up drugs, a black balaclava and a bag consistent with a rifle bag at his mother's home.
In a phone call on July 5, Love said to his mother that he had "other stuff to sell" that was "worth good dough, very good dough".
On July 6, Love asked his mother if she had "seen the pups", which she said she "sure did" with police alleging the "big blue one" and the "pale white ones" were references to the opals.
Police conducted another search of his mother's home on July 15, where they uncovered a buried revolver along with 57 rounds of ammunition and a rough-cut opal.
Love was released from jail on July 20, 2021. Following investigations, he was arrested for the opal heist four months later.
Love pleaded guilty to special aggravated break and enter and commit serious indictable offence, knowingly deal with proceeds of crime and three firearm-related charges earlier this week.
He will next face Wollongong District Court where he will receive a date for his sentence.
Read more Illawarra court and crime stories here.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.